Originally published Sept. 9, 2019 by Iosco Health and Wellness.
By Michael Gilbert
It would be challenging to find a person better suited for their job than Brandon Allison. The Apollo-Ridge School District health and physical education teacher, who works at both the middle school and high school, is passionate about educating as well as health and fitness.
“I love what I do,” says Allison, who is 35 and entering his 11th year with the Armstrong County-based school district. “I’m very fortunate because it is the perfect job for me.”
Allison’s commitment to wellness is one of the main reasons teaching physical education is the perfect job for him. As a youngster he played “every sport you can think of,” with basketball, soccer and hockey being his favorites. After entering Riverview High School, he concentrated solely on wrestling, and running was a key piece of his training.
“I was probably running 20 miles and hitting the weight room four or five times a week,” says Allison.
Training only intensified when he enrolled at West Virginia University and wrestled on the school’s club team.
“I was doing a lot of pull-ups and pull-downs,” he says with a laugh. “I was running 30 miles a week and spending a few more hours in the gym.”
While Allison’s collegiate wrestling career ended upon his graduation in 2007, he continued much of the training required of a grappler even as he departed Morgantown. He is a member of a men’s wrestling league and previously coached at nearby Hampton High School for several years after graduation.
“It’s a good way to stay in shape and keep moving, and honestly I feel great after a workout or run,” he says when asked why he continues the rigorous workout regimen that includes five days in the weight room and about 10 miles a week on the running trail.
Allison’s greatest running achievement to date wasn’t a singular event, but a quintuple occurrence. From 2011 through 2015, he participated in the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge, a grueling, 35-mile, single-day, sunrise-to-sunset endurance hike on the Rachel Carson Trail. Located northeast of Pittsburgh, the trail is extremely varied in its terrain, ranging from paved roads to woods and fields. Most of the streams have to be crossed as-is because few bridges have been built along the path.
“The trail is extremely hilly and there are some spots where the hills just seem to go straight up so you have to walk because you can’t run up them,” Allison says. “I made it a goal to improve every year and I was able to do that. The final year I did the challenge I finished in the top 15 percent of all participants.”
Allison found success earlier this summer by winning the 35-39 age division at the Oakmont 5K in Riverside Park. His time of 19:13 was more than two minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.
“It was my first time doing the race and it was a nice, flat course,” he says. “It turned out pretty well.”
As a PE teacher, Allison is dedicated to improving the health and wellness of his students. He is proud to say that he introduced FitnessGram, the different fitness components of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, to Apollo-Ridge. The annual assessment measures student fitness in aerobic capacity, body composition, flexibility, muscular strength and muscular endurance.
Allison, who holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology from the University of Pittsburgh, says it is still a thrill for him when one of his students scores high on the test.
“The goal is to improve health, so I’m always very proud when one of my students does well,” he says.
Having a student perform well on the is obviously special for Allison, but he understands some are more gifted than others. With that in mind, he tries to lead by example and encourage all of his students to do their best when it comes to physical activity.
“Everyone’s fitness is different,” he says.
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